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Monday, February 20, 2017

Action Please Take Two

Those of you who have followed me for a long time know that my blogging has slowly declined over the years.  I mean I went from posting a recipe every single week to not posting anything other than Flat Aggie for the last six months.  Three years ago, two young ladies asked me to take #ActionPlease and coach their 4-H Livestock Skillathon Team.  This sounded like fun, challenging and best of all my oldest son LOVES this contest, so of course I said yes.  Somehow in saying yes, I also agreed to coaching the Livestock Quiz Bowl team for our extension district as well.

The first year I coached them the Skillathon team placed second at state.  And then the first place team decided not to go to the National contest, so the rest of that fall was spent trying to figure out what they had gotten me into and how to prepare them.  This took a serious amount of time for someone who already had a full time job and was only doing this as a volunteer.  They taught me a lot about being a coach, teacher and mentor.

The past fall, a team took me to the National 4-H Livestock Quiz Bowl competition.  We didn't have as much time to prepare, but the month we did, I was consumed with all things quiz bowl to the point I was told my other half didn't want to hear another word about it after the contest.  This group did extremely well as they ended the competition as National Reserve Champions.

So what does this have to do with my previous post?

These kids are much like my kid's 4-H club.  They don't back down from a challenge.

This group is extremely smart.
They are extremely driven.
They are excellent speakers.
They not only want to learn about livestock, but all things agriculture.
Less than 20% of the members involved with livestock skillathon and quiz bowl over the last three years have come from a full time farm and ranch.  They love agriculture, but they don't get to live it.
They are future consumers who know that food doesn't just come from a grocery store.

I have been working with them to become better agvocates along the way...sometimes directly, but more often indirectly.  Half the kids are teens who are already online and active on different social media channels.  From time to time, we have discussions about things they see that they know aren't true.  Sometimes, I send private messages to encourage them to take a second look at their reactions and they are getting much better.

We discuss HSUS.
They can know the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.
We discuss GMO's.
We have even discussed corn pollination. (Thanks to a team member with a 32 oz Coca-Cola habit and an eight ounce bladder and a six hour road trip.)  ;)
They are sometimes amazed and frustrated with how much math farmers do and that I can do it while they struggle.
They love science and try to challenge my knowledge all the time.

I would not be afraid to take any of them with me to speak about livestock production.  They know the ins and outs even though they only get to raise a handful of animals each year themselves.  They inspire me to Take Action more often.  They often push me to look at things they find online and help them to respond in a mature way.

Once again, are we missing the boat with these agvocates?  They are more social media savvy than my farmer for sure.  They care about an industry that they hope to be a part of some day.
Farmers and Ranchers I challenge you to Take Action Please!  If you aren't interested in sharing your farm story with the public, share it with your local 4-H and FFA members.  They can help us in an ever electronically based conversation.  They take the time to be online whether they have the time or not.  They are inspired by the generations that came before them and many want to get back to the farm like their grandparents before them.

Want to know more of why I love these kids?  I had almost forgotten about this letter I wrote to them a few years back and it still rings true with this group.  A Letter to My 4-H Kids

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Action Please

I am not super organized most days, it is a product of my profession that is dictated by the crazy Kansas weather, animals, crops and pests, but when I do a presentation everything is planned.

I have taken a step away from actually going to schools over the last few years as my duties on the farm have evolved, my kids have gotten older and as I have grown Flat Aggie into across the nation learning tool with teachers from California, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, Illinois and more learning from our paper doll friend.

Enter into my life the young 4-H club.  Young in two ways.  Number one, the club started in August as in seven months ago!  Number two, our oldest member is seventeen and our youngest member is seven which isn’t that uncommon, but our second oldest member just turned fourteen!

Enter in a new 4-H family who loves agriculture especially Hereford pigs.  The seven year old stood up at the last meeting and made a motion that the club do an ag day at the local school.  Did I mention there are currently only 12 members?  The local school is in a town of about 9,000 population which equates to about 475 students in Kindergarten through second grade.

Yes, there was a motion and a second and a unanimous yes vote.  My thoughts were Oh my!  Do they truly realize what they have agreed to?  Probably not, but they are learning quickly.  They are lucky to have a leader who has done a Kindergarten Field Day or two, been to Earth Day and has an extensive Barn of Books! 

A motion like that can spur a leader into action faster than anything else.  I want them to be successful.  I want the school to feel like they are getting a quality day of education.  I want Agriculture to look good great!

Can these kids do it? YES!

Will it be like when I present our farm to school kids?  No, but why does it have to be that way?

Will they tell a side of agriculture that I don’t see? Yes!  Did I mention only one-third of the club has a parent who farms full time?

Will the Kindergartner through second graders learn something new about the farm?  Absolutely!

Will they remember farmers and ranchers (aka 4-H members) are nice people who know a lot about their animals and crops?  We sure hope so.

Will these teachers find a new list of human resources in their community that they can call on when they have a question? Yes and I plan to introduce them to Flat Aggie as well.

Are the kids excited? YES!  Even the seven year olds-they may be the most excited to bring their animals to show their friends.  

Have they spurred me to action in a way I haven't been in quite awhile? Absolutely!

Am I worried?  Maybe a little, but as the days go by, we are getting everyone in the club on the same page and I have a few friends volunteering to come help out.

We all get caught up in everything needing to be perfect to tell the ag story.  Farmers have been told time and time again that if we don’t tell the story, someone else will and it could be someone who has never stepped foot in a pig pen or a corn field.  Maybe instead of working hard to turn introvert farmers into agvocates we are missing the boat!  Maybe we need to be working with the kids who love agriculture, but don’t get to live it every day to help tell our agriculture super story.

Maybe we need to remember to take action when some says please come talk to us.

Stay tuned...I have more to say about this subject.